By Gregory J. Wilcox STAFF WRITER Dodge’s Magnum is yesteryear’s station wagon on steroids. Especially when it’s powered by a 5.7-liter, 350 horsepower Hemi V-8 under the hood. Or better yet, the 6.1-liter, 425 horsepower beast. OK, it might not be the prettiest or most practical urban explorer out there. But there is no mistaking its distinctive low profile and the edgy exhaust growl that subtly announces some powerful American muscle is nearby. In one sense, this car is almost in a class by itself these days. It’s a station wagon, pure and simple. This particular niche fell out of favor when SUV mania hit in the early 1990s, but the genre actually dates back about 30 years when AMC introduced the Eagle for the 1980 model year. And that was pretty much it for the good ol’ station wagon. In fact, the original Dodge Magnum first appeared in 1978 as a bulked up, high-style (for the time) sports sedan. This current version appeared in 2005 and is the company’s first station wagon since the Colt model in the early 1990s. While the SUV supplanted the station wagon in popularity, Dodge seems to have hit upon something because I encounter many Magnums while traveling about Southern California. The car seats up to five and will carry a modest amount of cargo – there is 27.2 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 71.6 cubic feet with them down. This is ample space for a road trip of a week or longer. The Magnum’s rear liftgate swings up instead of out so loading in parking areas is easier and the opening is larger than expected, too. “The 2007 Dodge Magnum is a stylish alternative for consumers who want the comfort and performance of a car, and the capability and image of a sport-utility vehicle (SUV), without sacrificing everyday functionality. Nothing else is like it on the road,” said George Murphy, senior vice president for global marketing at the the Chrysler Group, in a statement. The R/T model Drive Time tested also came with rear-wheel drive for the first time. This option also includes performance-tuned suspension, braking and steering, large 20-inch chrome-clad wheels and 245/45ZR20 all-season performance tires. The 2007 Magnum lineup features three engines, two transmissions, rear-wheel and all-wheel drive systems, and a variety of suspension tuning characteristics. The Hemi engines feature what Dodge calls a multi-displacement system that shuts off fuel consumption in four cylinders when V-8 power is not needed. Dodge says this can boost fuel efficiency by up to 20 percent. It also has an electronic stability control program, all-speed traction control and four-wheel anti- lock brake system. All this gets you where you are going in comfort and style. The Magnum handles like a smaller car and the ride is firm. The interior is focused on the driver and features classic-style round instruments and satin silver dash, door and console accents. The adjustable leather trim seats are firm and comfortable. The only noticeable drawback is the center console. It’s a bit short and made for an uncomfortable place for my right elbow at times. The cockpit also featured a hands-free cell phone connection with Bluetooth technology, Sirius satellite radio (one-year fee subscription with purchase), a full map DVD navigation keyed to a global positioning system and a rear seat DVD video system with remote control. Headphones were included so the driver wouldn’t be distracted by the sound track. “If practicality isn’t your priority, though, the Magnum may be an attractive choice. Its bold styling commands the road, and the optional Hemi V-8 delivers confident acceleration,” noted the Web site cars.com. “Perhaps the biggest draw is its distinctiveness. In a market crowded with conformity, it’s a welcome nonconformist.” [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!